The Inexplicable Feeling of September

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More than two years in the making, this CD by a Swedish group rises in and out of foreground consciousness, assembled meticulously but at times awkwardly reminiscent of recordings with a similar level of subtlety and production craft that also essentially seem cheesy. The Inexplicable Feeling of September by Testbild may also bring bad luck, although such a pronouncement must be considered well out of the bounds of what is an appropriate in a record review. While one reviewer was puzzling over similarities between the Testbild vocals and '60s and '70s hitmakers such as the Association and the Fifth Dimension, another chimed in from cyberspace with a letter detailing harrowing but nonetheless typical household events.

Describing himself as "working like a dog" to keep the bills paid with reviewing assignments, this pundit was a third of his way through the Testbild CD when he went off to wash his hands and realized his water service had been cut off: "This type of record that is so cheerful and groovy sounding is a terrible thing to have playing when you have just found out the water has been cut off, but perhaps I might have been gotten more upset if something like Cecil Taylor was on."

In sympathy with both his correspondent's lifestyle problems and aesthetic criteria, the reviewer who had received the above missive responded with an analysis of a style of vocal group in which there are lots and lots of members and they all harmonize pleasingly. Nobody ever knew how many people were in the Association or the Fifth Dimension, for example, every time they were on television or something there seemed to be an extra person. The large number of bodies on-stage as well as white-bread harmonizing was a tossback to even more insipid groups such as the New Christy Minstrels and the Back Porch Majority. To a group from Malmo recording at home in the year 2002, however, none of these references may mean anything. The feel of this type of music may just be a vibe, the singing style simply a comfortable reaction to the instrumental tracks. The two main members of Testbild achieve the sound differently, anyway, utilizing multi-tracking and a touch of background singing.

Following a period when the CD had seemingly played through its program of 15 tracks, both reviewers experienced a similar shock at the hands of the producers, unsurprisingly the Testbild members themselves. "I thought the CD was over but it kept playing on the machine," one critic chipped away at his keyboard, switching to the "Instant Messenger" system to allow more immediate dialogue.

"Maybe it is a home burn with a defective, locked track at the end," was the reply, that writer warming up for the type of comment appropriate in an article for stereo bugs.

About 20 minutes later there was a panicky message. "I turned up the CD really loud to see if there was anything else there like a bonus track and this really cool electronic thing started. It was so good and I had it up so loud that I didn't hear the water guy come knocking on the door and so as a result I have no water for the whole night tonight! (Expletive deleted)."

Indeed, the final bonus track, some ten minutes in length or so, is a terrific stretch of electronic layering unpolluted by polite vocalizing or the poetic themes of the preceding set list. For this performance to seem so much more exciting than the rest of the album may only be a matter of individual taste. Other listeners may find tracks such as "Another Day" propulsively rhythmic, "Tangled Humidity" mixed with deep restraint or "Clandestine Clam" like a friendly, relaxed version of Frank Zappa.

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